WHEN England went in to the last World Cup in South Africa, a long-standing argument resurfaced. How many times before had it been debated if Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can play in the same side?
This time around, things will be different. No longer are the pair perceived to be in competition for the attacking midfield role which they have been earmarked for over the years at both club and international level.
When Lampard and Gerrard were in their prime, Fabio Capello, Steve McClaren and Sven-Goran Eriksson would try to come up with a way of using them both regardless of the system, even if it meant farming out Gerrard to the right hand side. This time around in Brazil, the only debate will be if Lampard should be the man to slot in if the skipper is ruled out.
Over the last nine months Gerrard has reinvented himself as a deep-lying midfielder with the ability to make Liverpool tick. While the attacking prowess of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, assisted by the youthful flair of Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, impressed everyone at Anfield and beyond in their charge to the Champions League spots, the impact of Gerrard should never be under-estimated.
It will be hoped that his slip against Chelsea ,which effectively cost Liverpool a Premier League title, does not have lingering effects on Gerrard’s ability to rise to the occasion this month as England captain. Roy Hodgson, his national team boss, needs him to hit the heights Brendan Rodgers got from him in Liverpool colours.
Just as the Italians have turned to Andrea Pirlo in the past, England need Gerrard to prove himself on the international stage in the more withdrawn role having been feared across Europe for more than a decade as one of the finest box-tobox midfielders of his generation.
“There are not many who can do what he can do, which is to be one of the best attacking midfield players in Europe and then switch to be the best controlling player,” Rodgers said.
For Liverpool, playing in front of a back four often at the base of a d i a m o n d midfield, he still conjured up 13 goals last season and topped the assists with 13.
Reading a game is something Hodgson will be relying on from his skipper to gain qualification from Group D.
With the pace of Sterling, Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Danny Welbeck to call on, together with the work-rate of Jordan Henderson or the unpredictability offered up by rookie Ross Barkley, this is the finals when Gerrard can focus on other things.
Rather than feel like he has to drive in to the box and leave gaps behind him, he can concentrate on keeping England ticking over and deliver deadly set-pieces.
The argument is no longer about Gerrard’s inability to work in tandem with Lampard, in Brazil it will be about showing the rest of the world how he knits everything together in a Three Lions shirt as well as a red one. This is likely to be his last World Cup, so he will want to go out on a high.